Green fingers: Day 1

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So after a couple of weeks of postponing,I finally made in into the garden and did some much needed work. Don’t get me wrong, I love gardening but after a very busy first quarter of the year, I felt like I needed some time to disengage from  anything requiring a lot of effort. 

I’m so glad I did though, being out in the sun (and chilly air ūüė≥) was just what I needed; coupled with some good music, I was in heaven! I had just a few  of things on my to do list; attacking the weeds in  my flowerbeds and along the boundary fence, raking the lawn and potting my seeds.  But  I also managed to unweed my vegetable patch and put some order back in the shed! I just didn’t want to get back in the house. Hunger and fatigue finally got the best of me. 

The most important part is I felt calm, as if the world was spinning a little slower. Nothing really matters to me when I’m in the garden. I can stay in the moment and be present. I’m already looking forward to the weekend just for another dose of fresh air and lightness. 

Feeling blessed! 

Before

After 

Forceful

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Don’t be a whirlwind my love, Fiercely roaming the lands 

Leaving destruction in your path. 

Don’t be a storm at sea, fighting the waters

No one sees that far 

Don’t be the wind in the hills 

Smashing into the boulders, 

With no real place to go! 

Or lightning, with a split second of a chance.

To make its mark. 

You my child, are the bright summer sun warming the soils. 

You are the steady rains, beckoning the seeds to plant. 

Even when the world gives you every reason to show your wrath,

You my dear, are the principled force that moulds the earth. 

Carb Cycling – Restart your New Year’s resolution.¬†

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(This article was first published in Chica magazine)

So you have made the decision that 2017 will be the year you finally lose the weight! But weeks in, with little to show it’s all starting to feel like it wasn’t worth it. I’ve been there too! When I decided that I was going to lose the fat, I thought it would be very simple; eat less, move more. This is the general guideline to many a weightloss plans and while this serves as a great starting point, in my experience it isn’t the full story. 

It is true that you could eat a healthy balanced diet but if you consume more calories than your body requires, the excess will be stored as fat which leads to weight gain. However, in my experience trying to release this fat is not as easily done by simply eating less and moving more. When I realised that my efforts to lose weight were not gaining as much traction as I’d hoped, I joined a fitness training group and with it, gained a wealth of knowledge. One of the most important things I learned and included in my weightloss program was carb cycling. 

Not all carbs are created equal 

Carbohydrates form part of the three macronutrients the body requires; carbohydrates, protein and fat. And while carbohydrates provide the body with energy, the manner in which our bodies absorb this nutrient is important if one is trying to lose weight. In order to lose weight you need to do two things; burn the body fat you currently have and stop creating new body fat. 
In order to achieve the latter, the amount and type of carbs we eat and when we eat them becomes essential. This is basically the heart and soul of carb cycling. Unfortunately, carbs get a real bad wrap in the weightloss world but in reality we need carbs, they provide us with much needed energy which is easy for our bodies to convert. But the issue with carbs is more to do with the hormone Insulin; without it, our bodies cannot convert glucose into fat. Simple carbs like white bread, potatoes and candy, however, quickly trigger the release of insulin which is not ideal if your goal is to lose body fat. If you are constantly consuming a high carb diet this process will create body fat and also make it difficult for you to burn the fat you already have. Carb cycling helps to circumvent this process by timing your carb intake with times when your body needs it most; after an intense workout. What this does, is ensure that the carbs go towards replenishing the glycogen levels in our liver and muscles. 
Once I had made the decision to lose weight, I changed my diet to include more complex carbs: White rice was replaced by brown rice, and potatoes with sweet potatoes. When digested, complex carbs are released slowly into the body and as such, do not cause a spike in insulin which is the catalyst for fat storage. Complex carbs not only provide energy to the body, they also tend to have a high fiber content and more micronutrients. It is very important, when one is trying to lose weight to do this in a heathy manner and choosing foods complete with nutrients is a smart move. Combined with carb cycling, consuming complex carbs provides your body with a better chance to burn body fat. 

Calories in, calories out

It is very important to create a calorie deficit, through exercise and consuming less calories to encourage your body to use your current fat stores as fuel. When carb cycling you consume carbs at a time that supports this goal. The best time to consume carbs is soon after a workout. At this time, your glycogen levels in your muscles have been depleted; eating carbs at this time ensures that these are used to replenish your stores and not to create fat stores. This however means that on non work out days, you do not consume any carbs. This is a huge challenge as carbs generally help us feel sated. On this day, you would increase the percentage of calories derived from healthy fats as these will help you feel fuller for longer. 

What it looks like

Supposing your workout days are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday your carb cycling schedule would look like this:

Monday evening workout – Carbs with dinner
Tuesday rest day – zero carbs

Wednesday early morning workout – Carbs with Breakfast

Thursday evening workout – Carbs with dinner 

Friday rest day – Zero carbs 

Saturday mid morning workout – Carbs with lunch 

Sunday rest day – Low carb intake.
I typically do not work out on a Sunday but I do consume carbs on this day. I give myself a break from the schedule but ensure that I do not go beyond my daily calorie goal or maximum carb intake. 

It’s a lifestyle! 

My weightloss journey has transformed itself into a lifestyle change. Ultimately you want to make changes that you are able to maintain inorder to keep the weight off. Carb cycling can be a challenge on those zero carb days but I have found that going back to the reason why I was on this journey in the first place has provided me with motivation to get through the zero carb days. As part of the journey I also keep a food diary using Myfitnesspal and interesting enough I have found that I am still able to get some carb intake through vegetables. It is therefore important to avoid sweet and starchy vegetables; fruits are also off the menu on these days. It’s important to ensure that you eat enough on these days as it’s very easy to under-eat when you take out carbohydrates from your meal plan which only serves to lower your metabolism. This is where foods high in fat can be of good service as they provide a high calorie content per gram. My go-to foods on zero carb days are mushrooms, broccoli, avocados, nuts and natural Greek yoghurt.
As the saying goes, the weightloss journey is 80% diet and 20% workout; carb cycling takes this into account. This method can be tailored to meet your requirements and to suit your fitness routine. While there is no calorie restriction, if you are planning to lose some body fat, you will need to know how much calories your body needs to slowly release that body fat. There are tools available online such as Myfitnesspal to help with this. Some people do not like counting calories and choose to use portion control instead. This too, is a good method. 

You can do it!

The weightloss journey can be an adventure on self discovery. It will test your mindset, it will question what really matters to you and it will encourage you to put yourself first and prioritise those things necessary for a heathy lifestyle. Working on these areas will encourage you to choose the right foods; you won’t do it all the time, but you will do it more often than before until they become the main choices.  
Renewed confidence, belief in myself and an enhanced positive perspective on life have been the unexpected benefits for me. And interestingly, they reinforced my determination to keep going; a gift that keeps on giving. With the internet literally at our fingertips, healthy and most importantly, delicious meals are a search away. There are many people documenting their journeys on social media sites and they provide a great source of healthy meals you can adopt. A lot of fitness experts and nutritionists also post their meals online and these are worth adopting. 
Make the decision, you’re worth it! 

 

Red peppers stuffed with mince, topped with feta cheese; served with creamy mushroom and kale. 

Is it worth it? 

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Is it worth it? 

Today, I found myself having to make a difficult phone call to someone who I perceive to be difficult (I’m working on it). We’d gone back and forth on emails and I decided that I would bite the bullet and get the (non) issue resolved.
Ordinarily, I would be happy to take on board any feedback so long as I feel that I have been heard and understood. But, two minutes into the call, I sensed I wasn’t being heard at all and any efforts on my part to push this through would be futile. So while this individual went on and on about what they thought I “should” have done I listened quietly. A few times she cajoled me with rhetorical questions but I didn’t bite. Something in me just would not let me get in the mud ring with her. And it is in this calm that I heard her mumble and stumble over her words and repeat herself over and over . I also heard myself; the many times in the past that I have engaged in redundant arguments because I felt the need to be heard or understood.    
It is an underlying desire for us to feel that another person sees us and understands where we are coming from. But often we seek this in places that are unaccommodating and then act surprised when we find ourselves in a disagreement. 
I read somewhere that in such situations, you have to choose to be either happy or right. In that quiet space, I chose happy and still got what I wanted out of the situation. Some people, love to rant and rave. Lesson learned: You don’t have to take part in it. 

Beyond beauty

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Beyond beauty

I had the pleasure of attending a diversity show at a local high school where my daughter was part of a dance act. The first performance of the night was a big band with belly dancers. When the women came on stage I couldn’t help noticing that their bellies were not flat. Indeed, they laid bare their jiggly bits and stretch marks. Needless to say, I was in awe.

The thing is, if you have an “imperfect” body, it’s not easy to step out in any outfit that brings attention to the “problem” areas. Society has deemed a certain body type as the only one deserving to be exposed and ogled. So, for these women to expose their midsection, in front of over a 100 folk, was brave. 

Unfortunately, most of us shudder at the possibility of such an act; preferring to hope and wait for when our bodies are just right for us to wear that dress, that bikini, those pants. In a sense, life and it’s valuable experiences pass us by as we wait on a moment that may never arrive. There is much to admire about women who may possibly not like the way their bodies look most of the time but still chose to do the thing they devoted their time and energy to, I wasn’t just watching women belly dancing and doing it well too; these women were in the arena, daring greatly (thank you Bren√© Brown). There is so much to our human experience that can be lost if our attention is limited to the exterior part of our being. 

“It is not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.”

– Warsan Shire 

With us having just celebrated International Women’s Day, it was great to witness a moment like this. What makes women beautiful is so commercialized that most of us cannot look in the mirror and confidently say we like what we see. Just weeks earlier, a photo of Aamito Lagum on MAC’s Instagram garnered some very racist and negative remarks. It’s like we’ve become one dimensional, choosing only to see things that fit this predetermined notion of beauty. Most of us do not fit these dimensions and struggle to contort and reshape ourselves to meet them. 

Faced with this potential judgement of who we are based on how we look, it is not surprising that our authentic selves remain hidden from the world. Who wants to put themselves out there when there’s trolls and “well meaning” friends and family with opinions to share? Having had a moment to reflect on this, it wasn’t lost on me that I am probably that friend or family member that offers unwarranted advice and opinions. It takes a concerted effort on our part to be aware of how we speak to others and what we project out in nuances. 

It is a difficult thing to ignore an instance that doesn’t live up to social norms. There is a need in us to address it and impose our egos; that includes an opinion which sometimes fails to acknowledge the strength and bravity it takes to own who we are. We’re all on a journey and that woman and her jiggly bits might be feeling great after dropping a dress size and what we say can either serve to inspire or demotivate her. We all know what energy we would prefer to receive. 

And to those women who with likely fear, still danced with beauty and grace, thank you for showing me that which I am relearning. 

“There’s more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.”

– Audrey Hepburn

Frustration is self-pity by another name 

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Frustration is self-pity by another name 

I found this provoking line in the book I’m currently reading, Ghana must go, by Taiye Selasi; “Frustration is self pity by another name.” It peaked my interest.

Frustration noun

1. The feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to do something.

2. A cause of dissatisfaction or annoyance.

3. The prevention of the progress, success or fulfilment of something

Self-pity noun 

Excessive concern with and unhappiness over one’s own troubles. 

Oxford English Dictionary

Feelings of frustration are fairly common in our day to day lives. We can encounter this emotion when things happen that are out of our control ( Traffic is slow due to an accident so you’re late for your meeting) or things we have control /influence over but did not adequately exercise ( You rushed through the prep for your presentation and your clients were not impressed by it). 

Our emotions are a great indicator of our current state of mind. Whist the feeling of frustration initially reveals a sense of powerlessness, a loss/lack of control over the situation, this can be temporary. How temporary it is, is a matter of choice. 

In his book, The 7 habits of highly effective people, Stephen Covey talks about Stimulus (what has happened to us) and Response and how, between the two we have a freedom to choose what our response will be. 

” Look at the word responsibility- “response-ability”- the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognise that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behaviour. Their behaviour is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.” 

– Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 

This is from the Habit 1, Be proactive, which I personally find the most challenging, simply because over the years I have built up habits that do not support a proactive state of being. 

Frustration can lead one to a state of acceptance, “it’s out of my hands, I’ll take on board whatever feedback comes.” or it could lead to worry and blame; ” Half of the people in the room aren’t even qualified for their jobs, they just don’t understand where I’m coming from!”

Taking responsibility for the situation you’re in allows you to regain control and with that, a movement up the emotional scale. You can continue to find people and things to blame until you have an ill-catered party for One. While our feelings are always valid in themselves, our response to them may not be. After all, would you rather feel good or feel bad? How you continue to feel afterwards is up to you. No one else suffers as much as you do when you’re frustrated or wallowing in self-pity, not even the people you hold accountable for your current state of mind. And if it is yourself you blame, there are no gains from making the situation worse by beating yourself up about it. 

So, for me frustration is the gateway to self-pity and I’ll be using Taiye’s quote as a “warning to self”. Most of us are not well trained to quickly choose a response that puts us back in control. It might take a while to identify that our response is what’s causing our frustration, more than what has happened. But if our ultimate goal is to feel good about life and about ourselves we can apply some self-compassion which will empower us to find a solution. 

“There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” Thick Nhat Hanh

I embrace 36! 

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I embrace 36! 

Last thoughts as a 35 year old. 
We live in a highly scripted world, where what we truly believe and know to be true of ourselves lies heavily beneath paradigms. One of those scripts is on age. There is an illogical loathe for age , an anti ageing movement within our society. 

While I am not one to still proclaim to be forever 21 or 30, I did identify a mild resistance at the arrival of each birthday after I turned 30. I started thinking about turning 36 a few months ago and my true feelings over the years about ageing. The scripted lives we live have us thinking that there is something to fear or despise about ageing mostly because the physical dimension is more elevated in our society, than thee the social, spiritual and mental part of our humanity. But when I searched my soul I realised it was more about my turning a year older without feeling like I’ve accomplished certain things. 

I searched myself for these “things” and found that I was being held captive by another script. The script tells you what you need to have acquired by a certain age and when you fall short of the expectations in the script, turning an age older might not feel fantastic. The next question that came, was “do you want any of these things”, and for the most part it was a yes. But this question opened up an even more important question “what is most important to you?” And I realised, for the most part, I have a lot of these things. They don’t all take the shape and form in the script but they are there, ready to be cherished. 

This year’s birthday is “especially” special: I was diagnosed with cancer over 5 years ago and in the cancer universe, the five year mark is a big deal. I think it is a big deal. I am exceedingly grateful and I do acknowledge that maybe this gives me a little vantage point on the gifts of ageing: the gift of wisdom, the gift of insight, the gift of second, third , fourth chances; the gift of experience. Ageing means we have Life, we get to live out our hopes, dreams and sometimes unfortunately, our worries and fears. How blessed we are to be alive, older and hopefully wiser. We get to try again or move on to a new challenge. When we ask for more time to spend with our families , to achieve our dreams, we are asking for the grace of ageing. Long life, and ageing are two ends of the same stick. You cannot pick one end without the other. 

 

So as I sit in reflection on my last day as a 35 year old, I plead with myself, to be kinder to myself, to forgive myself of the stupidity of my youth; to embrace the ageing, the challenges and to be grateful for all that love me. I embrace the tough lessons, the difficult-to-get-over life lessons. I sit in quiet expectation of the unfolding of my being, careful not to be impatient and slowly stepping out of the shadows of fear. Love is all around me, in different shapes and forms! 
I embrace 36.